Leaf blowers and blower vacuums

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They're handy but noisy.

A leaf blower or blower-vacuum will quickly deal with dust, dirt and fallen leaves. We've tested how noisy and safe they are to use.

From our test

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What to look for

Leaf blowers produce a strong jet of air that blows away debris. Blower-vacs do this too – and when set to vacuuming they can also suck up the debris, mulch it (to some extent), then deposit it in a collection bag.

Our test combines battery-electric (cordless) leaf blowers and mains-electric blower-vacuums. Leaf blowers are simpler and lighter because they only have one function, while blower-vacs have the added versatility of vacuuming.

The best type for your needs will depend on the size and layout of your yard.

Power source

  • Petrol models are the best choice for large sections. They can also be used in wet weather, which we don’t recommend for mains-electric models because of the risk of shock. However, all the models in our test have two-stroke engines, so there’s the added hassle of mixing petrol and oil, as well as unpleasant exhaust fumes. They’re harder to start than electric blower vacs as they almost always use a pull cord, and require more steps to convert between blower and vacuum modes.

  • Mains-electric blower vacs perform as well as petrol models, and they’re usually easier to use. But their range is limited by the power cord, which is annoying to drag around.

  • Battery-electric (cordless) blower vacs aren’t yet powerful enough to match the performance of petrol or mains models, and they run for less than half an hour before needing a recharge. However, they can be a good option for smaller sections where you don’t have too many leaves to deal with.

Buying tips

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Mulch ado about nothing

A selling point for blower vacs over leaf blowers is their ability to mulch collected leaves, which reduces the volume of waste. The mulch can then be spread on your garden to improve soil health. Many manufacturers claim “mulch ratios” upwards of 10:1 (i.e. 10 bags of loose leaves reduce to one bag of fine mulch). But take these claims with a grain of salt – in previous tests we found the ratios to be closer to 4:1, especially with densely packed or wet debris.

Look for models with a metal impeller (fan) rather than plastic – they’re more effective at chopping up leaves and thereby reducing the volume of waste, and they’re more durable. Some models feature “mulching knives” on the impeller to aid in chopping up the material.

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